Photo above: Sue Faye with her teammates at the AIESEC National Conference.
Name: Tan Sue Faye
Course/University: BSc Psychology/University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
Experience: Group leader at the AIESEC National Conference 2015
Life experiences shape our leadership framework. To me, leadership means finding strength amidst discouragements. Through difficult times, I hold a belief that a leader has to learn to lead oneself before leading the rest. I picked myself up by convincing myself that I am much stronger than I think, and despite the weaknesses I see in myself, there is a side of me that can overcome them.
Let me share a story with you.
I experienced the ultimate feeling of vulnerability when I attended the AIESEC national conference in January. Being placed in a group of 10 strangers, I isolated myself from my groupmates for two days. I was eager to leave the conference because I believed that I did not belong to the group and had a strong sense that they would not accept me. Moreover, my groupmates were very outspoken; that naturally discouraged me to speak up.
Stepping up… to fall down
I realised I needed to step out of my comfort zone. I decided to challenge myself to the shock of my groupmates and my facilitator, Jimmy from Taiwan. I raised my hand to volunteer as the group leader. My task was to lead the team to produce a proposal for a feasible way to double up the number of AIESEC Exchange participants in Malaysia for the year 2015.
Never had I led a group before and the level of uncertainty was about to increase. Under my guidance as the leader, my team got lost in our own world, producing infeasible solutions. I was treated with sarcasm due to my honest and direct feedback. I even lost control of my emotion and expressed my frustrations to my teammates when we were running out of time.
For the entire time, all I thought of was to give up; thus, losing my focus in leading the team in the right direction. As the pressure and the discouragement rose, I finally broke down in the middle of the night while I was taking a shower. Yet, that was also the time when I regained my courage and motivation to improve my leadership skill. I sacrificed my sleep to further understand the group task and planned on improving my leadership skill so as to bring my group back on the right path.
Getting up again
I started to coordinate my team by initiating discussion and was ready to bring my members back to the focus of the task and feasibility of ideas to avoid straying away from our goal and objectives. I started to see improvements in myself and the bond between my members and I. The feeling was so rewarding and it gave me a sense of accomplishment. I felt as though we were finally working as a team moving towards the right direction. What’s more, we found ourselves as equals. As a leader, all I did was to be part of the journey to get us back on the path if we strayed away.
All of us found strength and courage through hard times. We worked together to bring the entire team towards the goal. That is leadership, where all of us lead ourselves with the vision of a leader, without giving up, seeking strength in hardship. Although our proposal was not accepted by the panel, we were satisfied because we learnt so much from each other. I most definitely learnt a lot from this experience.
From that experience, I remind myself that leadership is an important aspect in life. I will not be aware of if I do not acknowledge it. Leadership is my friend, my motivator.